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Dr. Charles Drew: Remembering “The Father of Blood Banks” And His Fatherhood

In the 1940s, Dr. Charles Drew was a prominent surgeon, living with his wife and four children in Washington, D.C. He was a multifaceted man who trained surgeons and physicians, and who also studied and tested the storage of blood and plasma.

Dr. Charles Drew working with his residents at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis.

During World War II, Dr. Drew was recruited to head the Blood for Britain Project. His goal was to discover the safe storage and transport of blood needed on the battlefield. His efforts were successful, and his breakthrough helped preserve the lives of thousands of soldiers.

After the war, Dr. Drew continued his life-saving research, even while the Red Cross maintained a segregation of blood based on race. Dr. Drew fervently argued against the segregation of blood, but he would not live to see the reversal of this policy. He died in a car accident on April 1, 1950, but later that year the Red Cross ended the discriminatory practice.

Ernest Jarvis and Charlene Drew Jarvis in recent years. Courtesy of Ernest Jarvis.

Dr. Drew’s daughter, Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis, came to StoryCorps with her son, Ernest Jarvis, to remember the man who paved the way for today’s blood banks.

Top Photo: Dr. Charles Drew in his lab. Courtesy of Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis.

Originally aired August 6, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.